On Thursday 11 June 2020 The Lord Mayor’s Appeal welcomed over 70 people to the second in our This is Me 2020 webinar series. The focus was on ‘How to encourage your employees to share stories’ as part of the programme that supports organisations to create healthier and more inclusive workplace cultures.
We know that This is Me storytelling works. 83% of organisations have said that This is Me had a positive impact on reducing the stigma around mental health in their workplace, increasing awareness and making it easier for people to talk, with 82% saying it helped change attitudes around mental health for the better.
Jo Cole, Cyber & Information Security Portfolio Manager from UBS spoke about the importance of being an advocate. Engagement can be challenging, so it’s important to shape it as an opportunity. The recent Mental Health Awareness Week has provided an opportunity to engage people and encouraged people to start small and begin a conversation. As she highlighted, the current pandemic has made paramount our need for good mental wellbeing, and strangely, we have become more comfortable to speak out, recognising that everyone is in this together. We need to be asking people whether they are ok, and listening to the answers.
Nikki McGowan, Talent Specialist at UBS shared her thoughts on how to engage people, and cites senior leadership involvement as key. It can be really helpful to have mental health champions, which is something they have in their Headscape scheme at the company. It’s about being honest and vulnerable she explained, and encouraging people to bring their whole self to work. Both Jo and Nikki recommend contacting people directly and asking them to share their story, recognising that it can be difficult, but offering the support and structure for them to do so. When we show we care, we can change the culture.
When employees at Baker McKenzie, who have been involved with This is Me for a number of years, started sharing their stories through blogs and posters, people started to reaching out and connecting said Suzannah Winter, CSR manager at the firm. They started small, but have now had many people produce videos. As she explained, storytelling impacts the people who share their stories and those who hear them. Connection, conversations and communities expand, and relationships are formed. From regular mental health slots at team meetings to doing Mental Health First Aid training, to addressing wellbeing in senior leadership videos, the culture has shifted and mental health is at the centre of work. She recognises that it is challenging and there can be safeguarding issues, but with the right support, people can feel encouraged to speak up and speak out.
Here are the top tips from our speakers. You don’t have to do them all, but they are worth thinking about to help create healthier workplaces where people feel supported and able to speak up.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people directly to have them to share their stories. People might feel nervous about coming forward, so go to them, and let them know that they will be supported throughout the process.
- Use your networks to find participants and ensure you have diverse participants. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, and it’s important that people from all backgrounds are represented.
- You can start small by inviting in an external speaker, or writing blogs or running poster campaigns. You do not have to jump straight to film if that feels daunting.
- Have follow up conversations with people who are interested and be clear about the process, letting them know that they can drop out at any time.
- Emphasise the impact sharing their story can have for both them as an individual but also helping others and changing the culture in the organisation.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal is grateful to our speakers and partners. If you would like to know more about This is Me, visit here.